Black Hawk-Eagle: The Ultimate Guide

The black hawk-eagle, or known to some as the tyrant hawk-eagle is a neotropical bird of prey commonly found in Central America. 

Unless you’ve visited the likes of Colombia or Argentina, then you may not have been able to witness this spectacular bird yourself yet. 

That’s why we thought we’d write this ultimate guide to the black hawk-eagle to fill you in on all the fascinating facts and information you need to know about them.


Black hawk-eagles, like the name, are mostly black all over with some white checkering under the wings or lower body and have bold white parts on their tails.

They have yellow to orange eyes and a short bushy crest. They also have yellow feet with short black claws that they use to clutch prey when hunting.

The 4 white bars on their tails are what makes them most distinctive as black hawk-eagles. 

Younger black-hawk eagles have lighter, almost brown coats and a crown but they are rarely seen flying about. The tail of juvenile black hawk-eagles is grey with a white underside which will eventually darken as they grow older. 

They are around 23 to 28 inches in length and have an average wingspan of around 55 inches. They can weigh between 2-3lbs depending on the sex and the availability of food. 

Male Vs Female

Female black hawk-eagles are much larger than their male counterparts. Males weigh around 1.9 to 2.1lbs whereas most females will weigh around 2.4-2.5lbs. 

Both sexes appear to have some colorings and markings as each other and there are no prominent differences apart from height and weight to tell them apart. 

Are They Aggressive?

When it comes to hunting or defending their territory the black-hawk eagles can become aggressive towards other animals but this is out of instinct and the need to survive.

During mating season they can become much more territorial and aggressive towards other eagles if they try to approach their nest.

As these eagles are commonly found in forestry areas, human interaction is not too common, however, it would be best to keep a safe distance if you ever do happen to spot one of these birds, especially if you have small pets or young children with you. 

What Adaptations Do They Have?

Like other neotropical birds, black hawk-eagles have a facial disk that is situated behind the eyes which will collect and direct sound to their ears.

Black-hawk eagles need this because they live in dense forestry areas where the sunlight cannot penetrate through the thick canopies of the trees and therefore making it more difficult for them to spot food on the floor.

Like other eagle species, the black hawk-eagle has long and broad wings to help them have a faster and more direct flight, especially when they’re hunting for food on the ground.

They also have larger and sharper beaks than other birds which help them to rip open the flesh of their prey. 

As many black-hawk eagles hunt from the skies, they’re equipped with some of the best eyesight in the animal kingdom to help locate their prey from far away distances. 

Breeding/Reproduction Behaviour

Male and females may take part in a courtship display to initiate interest in mating, this may consist of swooping flight or circling each other in the sky. Once they have found their partner, they will stay with them for life. 

Breeding season is often between December and August and they will only usually breed once every 2-3 years. 

Female black-hawk eagles will normally lay their eggs at an average of 10 days after copulation with the male.

Females will normally only lay 1 egg and she will normally be the one to incubate the egg for around 45 days whilst the male goes out to bring food to her whilst she protects the egg. 

Once the egg hatches, the eaglet will have a white coat that will eventually darken after around 5 weeks. It will then be fed by both parents until they begin to fledge at around the 70-day mark.

Eaglets can be prone to attacks from other eagles or even monkeys in the trees if they are left alone in the nest by the parents.

Eagles may eventually leave the nest once they are 1-year old but it will depend on how dependent on their parents they still are. 

Their Calls/Sounds

The black hawk-eagles call is a series of repetitive whistles which they will do when they’re soaring over the canopy or nearby open land during the morning.

When flying, their calls will sound like ‘whi, who whioooo’ whereas when they’re perched near the nest, their calls are softer and less drawn out.

What Do They Eat (Diet)

They usually feed on mammals such as squirrels, neotropical monkeys, marmosets, possums bats, and other large birds such as toucans and macaws.

However, depending on where they’ve nested, they will also happily feast on lizards, snakes, and iguanas if they are short on their food supply.

They’re especially good hunters and as they soar above canopies and open land, they can spot their prey and carry out a surprise attack on the ground. 

Where Do They Live (Habitat)

Black Hawk-Eagle

The species can be found in Mexico, Peru, Argentina, and as far south as Brazil. They live in the Neotropic zone in forestry areas, lowlands, and foothills. They can be most commonly found 650 to 5000 feet above sea level. 

What Are Their Nesting Habits?

Black hawk-eagles may build a nest before the mating season and will often carry out the process together.

The nests in which the egg is incubated and the eaglet will stay are normally 55 inches wide and 22 inches deep and are located up to 124 feet in the trees depending on the area they live in.

They’ll use large sticks and twigs for the nest which is placed on a thick sturdy branch of a large tree.

How Long Do They Live For? (Lifespan)

In captivity, this species can live for an average of 40 years but in the wild, their lifespan is reduced and the average lifespan is around 15 to 20 years. 

What Predators Do They Have?

Black hawk-eagles are amongst the top predators so they are not commonly hunted by other animals. However, eagles are opportunistic and if there are larger species around they will not hesitate to attack and try to kill smaller eagles. 

As baby black-hawk eagles will stay in their nests, they become vulnerable to other tree species like monkeys and other birds of prey that are looking for an easy meal. 

The biggest threat to black hawk-eagles is deforestation and agriculture expansion which is causing them to lose their habitats.

Hunting is also a mild problem, where some poachers are seeking out these birds as trophies for their homes or to sell. 

What Are Their Feathers Like?

This species has glossy black feathers over its body and also has a small crest of feathers on its head. Their flight feathers are checkered black and white and will have other checkering of white on their underparts. 

What Does Their Poop Look Like?

Urine and feces are excreted together, as is common with most birds so their poop appears white and more so in a liquid form than a stool.

This species may perch on a branch and poop off the edge, but it’s very uncommon for them to poop in their nests. 

Do They Migrate?

Black hawk-eagles are generally resident species and are not prone to migrating unless completely necessary due to a lack of food supply or destruction of their habitat.

They will not move too far away though and will always seek out forestry areas and humid climates below the canopies.

It’s not uncommon for black hawk-eagles to build a nest when they meet their mating partner and then stay at that nest for the rest of their lives. 

Conservation Status

The black hawk-eagles status is currently rated at least concerned by BirdLife International, which means there are no worries about the species being in trouble of going extinct. 

As of 2008, there were estimated to be around 50,000 black hawk-eagles in the world, which was suspected to decline. 

Fun Facts

Black hawk-eagles are a monogamous species and it is highly uncommon for them to have more than one mating partner in their lifetime

In Brazil, the species is called Gavião-pega-macaco which translates to catch-a-monkey-hawk due to their hunting preferences

The black hawk-eagle can most commonly be spotted soaring through the sky in mid to late morning

They are not usually found west of the Andes

Female black hawk-eagles are larger than males